Is a meat tax inevitable and desirable?

By : Eating Better
Jul 18, 2018

Is a meat tax inevitable and desirable? That was the question posed by a recent meeting of the Food Ethics Council’s Business Forum with keynote presentations from Eating Better’s Sue Dibb and Dr Marco Springmann of the University of Oxford.

In her presentation, Sue acknowledged the important role of fiscal incentives (and disincentives) in shifting meat consumption and production. For example, Eating Better’s Beyond the CAP report highlighted how the current hidden subsidies of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) (£3bn) and trade policies (ie tariffs) could be better spent to support healthier and more sustainable and ethical livestock production and consumption.

While the idea of a ‘meat tax’ can appear a simple way to engage the media and commentators, Sue pointed out that in reality the meat issue is far more complex than the sugar tax that has been introduced on soft drinks. One particular challenge of a blunt meat tax is that it would likely make no distinction for ‘better’ meat. Plus, it would also be harder to sell than a sugar tax as meat does have nutritional value unlike sugar.

Sue argued for a more nuanced approach to behaviour change that employs the full range of levers as a mutually supportive package from ‘softer’ nudging and awareness raising to legislation and policy including fiscal incentives.

Read the full report here.

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